Is Beyonce a feminist? From our discussion, it seems that many believe that she might not be, including world renowned feminist bell hooks as well as the philosophies of Audre Lorde. But after watching her visual album Lemonade and listening to Ms. Nardone’s presentation, I am completely and 100% convinced that Beyonce is, indeed, a feminist. Through her album, Beyonce describes the emotional toll of realizing her husband is cheating on her and eventually forgiving him. The feelings she highlights stem from Intuition to Anger, Accountability to Forgiveness, and finally end with Redemption. Beyonce uses various music genres, the ideals of women like Zora Neale Hurston, and various forms of appropriation and subversion to prove her point and tell her story, as well as open the viewers’ eyes to much beyond that.
The song Don't Hurt Yourself is under the “Anger” section of her album, in which Beyonce parades around a dimly lit parking garage, yelling at the camera, and essentially threatening Jay-Z, continually asking him “who the fuck do you think I am?”, telling him “you are lying to yourself!” and ending with the looming statement of “don’t hurt yourself.” This song spoke to me specifically because when we typically think of a woman who takes back her husband after he is caught cheating on her, we think that the woman has done him a favor and is graciously, weakly, and naively allowing him back into her life. This song defies all of that. Beyonce is screaming at him and telling him that she will not put up with any of his behavior. She continually refers to the amount of money she makes on her own, emphasizing the fact that she does not depend on him financially and can do just as well, if not better, without him in her life. Beyonce is taking all the power that Jay-Z thought he had when he cheated on her, and giving it to herself; allowing herself to become angry and how him just who he is really messing with. To me, that is a straight up feminist move!
The other song that really influenced me was Sand Castles, which played under the Forgiveness section. When Beyonce is talking during the beginning of this section, she says “if we are going to heal, then let it be glorious.” This statement becomes a prelude to the rest of her album, in which she essentially forgives Jay-Z for all the ways he wronged her, and ultimately becomes a stronger person because of it. In Sand Castles, she says “Although I promised I couldn’t stay, every promise don't work out that way.” She essentially is going back on what she said in the song Don't Hurt Yourself, because she has decided to come back to her husband. During this song, images of her and Jay-Z appear of them lying together on a bed, laughing, and caressing each other. It is evident from this song that Beyonce wants to be with her husband because she loves him. It is made quite obvious through the rest of her album that she knows he has wronged her and that she is not going to let him off the hook, but she does not want to punish herself anymore because of his mistakes. She decides that she is happier with him than without him, and decides to stay with him because she wants to, not because she has to. Beyonce makes it quite evident throughout her album that she is a strong and independent woman who does not need a man in her life for financial stability. But she wants her husband in her life because he is the “love of [her] life” and she believes he is deserving of her love.
I believe that Beyonce is a feminist because she does what she wants unapologetically and openly. I do believe that Lemonade is a feminist album, because it portrays a strong feminine figure appropriating blatantly masculine things (such as a parking garage, football field, the street, or the “male gaze”) and subverting them into areas filled with black women marching and dancing confidently or looking into the camera straight on. Beyonce takes every feminine form, from the Whore to the Madonna, and makes it her own, showing viewers that a woman is not a being that fits into one simple box, but a mixture of everything that completes her. She also proves that a woman can be strong while also being vulnerable, and is a blatant example of the idea that women can be with a man if they want to or be independent if they want to. Beyonce herself is a mixture of every song on her album, angry, vulnerable, empowering, quiet, and playful. She does what she does with confidence and refuses to apologize because her decisions are her own to make.